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220

aloud and nieasuredly in the darkness, and his hands gripped
the dry, alien boards of the fence. The whitewash powdered,
furrily, against the flesh of his hands. He swung on his heel
and strode away across the yard.

During that period he avoided his accustomed activities
around the place. Once or twice, as he went incautiously
about some ordinary occupation, the currying of his mare or
the inspection of the wood that had been cut for the tobacco-
firing, some motion of his own or the sight of some familiar
object shook, insidiously and suddenly, his massive com-
posure. Warned, like some convalescent sufferer by the flare-
up of an old symptom, he withheld himself, husbanded him-
self, that nothing should strike him suddenly beyond his
strength. So he sank when possible into a blank absorption
with the fact of the moment, a leaf on the ground at his feet,
a white, unmoving spot of cloud on the blue fall sky, the
faded pattern on a dish, the hum of the flame of a lamp.
As he felt the need to protect himself from the disturbing
contact of other persons, so more and more he felt the need
to protect himself, by denying memory, as it were, from the
contact of the self he had been. And his mind closed like a
valve against all thoughts of the future.

Late one afternoon, however, he took down his shotgun
and walked across the barn lot and down across the fields
back of the house toward the fringe of woods along the creek
that watered the farm, When he had reached the brush
along the creek and had slipped from sight, he felt relieved
and safe. He pushed through the brush, the reddening
sumac and buckberry and brittle elder, and entered the open
space under the tall shagbark hickories. Their trunks were
straight as columns, and unbranching for a long way up.
The light filtered goldenly through their unstlrring leaves.
Yellowish leaves fallen from the hickory boughs lay on the
level ground. He paused for a moment and looked high
overhead and all around Mm at the walls of leaves that cut
him off so privately from the entire world. Then, slowly, he
moved across the open space, toward the creek.